Israel's risky option on Iran
Talk of a military strike on Iranian nuclear facilities is not subsiding. If diplomacy can't head off Iran'snuclear ambitions, advocates for a military strike in Israel and the United States will only gain strength. While proponents may believe that Israel can endure the short-term military and diplomatic fallout of such action, the long-term consequences are likely to be disastrous for Israel's security.
A unilateral attack by Israel would also diminish the determination of the international community to challenge Iranian transgressions of its Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty commitments, or to continue to support Israel. The Obama administration has left "all options on the table," but it clearly does not want a military strike. Key players in Europe, not to mention smaller powers in Asia, would view military action as undermining diplomatic and economic options to solve the problem. Russia and China'sresponse would be more hostile, jeopardizing Israel's growing political and economic relations with both countries. Regional reactions would also be negative, further inflaming anti-Israel sentiment in Arab nations. Iran has been losing ground with Arab populations disillusioned with its repression at home and its support for President Bashar Assad's brutal repression in Syria, but an Israeli strike could allow Iran to bounce back as it plays the victim and fuels popular hatred toward Israel. Likewise, Israel's relationship with key neighbors Egypt and Jordan, more beholden to popular sentiment in the aftermath of the Arab uprisings, could be severely strained, putting at risk vital peace treaties. Any prospect of shared anti-Iranian sentiment forging quiet common cause between Israel and Arab Persian Gulf states or Israel and Turkey would dissipate. Israel has never been integrated into the Mideast. But Israel has rarely faced total isolation. When Israel has confronted Arab nationalist adversaries in the past (Egypt and Iraq), it had the non-Arab "periphery" to turn to (Iran and Turkey). When Israel perceived a rising threat from Iran, it turned to peacemaking with its Arab neighbors. Israel has not faced a strategic situation in which it is isolated from Arabs and non-Arabs alike, while at the same time facing growing international isolation.